Maverick Deals: The New “New Generation”

The world of pro wrestling, much like life, is cyclical. Popularity and quality of the product sometimes go from warm to cold, like the changing of the seasons. Over the last few years the WWE seems to have reached a transitional stage for the company. It reminds me a lot of what happened back in the early ’90s. They called it the “New Generation Era,” and it was one of my favorites. The were coming off the hottest period the company had ever seen, and as Hulkamania came to an end, they had to create new stars to keep the company on top. The territory system was all but dead, and as WCW grew from a regional “rasslin'” show to a national TV program, the WWE found themselves not only competing for viewers, but for talent as well.

Just look at where we are when it comes to wrestling. It is a sport that thrives on the internet, and fans all over the world know just as much about any independent wrestler as they do the top superstars in the WWE. Recently a shot was heard round the world, as the “All In” Indy show in Chicago sold out in less than a half an hour. This is indeed a great time to be a fan of all wrestling, but the more I think about it the more I see the WWE in a transitional phase. They have a tremendous amount of in-ring talent, but they lack a larger than life megastar that can carry the company into a war that is just beginning. To prove that what goes around comes back around, let’s take a look at some of today’s stars, and compare them to the “New Generation” alum that they resemble most. Starting with…..

Roman Reigns is Diesel:

I’m sure some of you were expecting the obvious Big Cass/Diesel comparison but when you break it down, outside of size, it doesn’t make much sense. I don’t see Cass as a main event talent just yet, and to be quite honest, he can’t touch Kevin Nash on the mic. Putting Roman Reigns in that spot gets clearer the more you think about it. Diesel debuted as Shawn Michaels bodyguard, Reigns as a the muscle next to Ambrose and Rollins in the SHIELD. When WWE brass saw something they liked, they were fast tracked to top guy status. Sure it took Reigns longer than Nash to win a World Title, but it was chance the WWE took to try and create a new star from nothing. What brings them together is the hate both guys garner. Diesel’s WWF Championship run is regarded as one of the worst in company history. As talented as both men are, neither ever really had the respect of the hardcore fan. Further more, there was a tremendous amount of talent behind them on the card, that many fans felt more deserving of the top spots. Even though Reigns is a better in-ring performer, it still shows that no matter what you try, sometimes the fans just won’t buy in. Reigns can definitely get his career back on track with a character adjustment, much like Nash did when he left WWE for WCW, and was one the founders of the nWo. That run put him in the Hall of Fame, we’ll see if Reigns can carve out a similar path.

Speaking of shields and Kliq’s…..

Seth Rollins is Shawn Michaels:

Comparing these 2 guys as in-ring performers is nothing groundbreaking, but their career paths are more similar than meets the eye. Both broke into the WWE as part of a group, then shockingly turned on said group in order to further their career. Except Rollins shot to top right out of the gates, where Michaels took the longer road to world championship glory. Where they set themselves apart is how they have upheld the tradition of having the Intercontinental Champion be the “wrestlers title.” Much like HBK, Rollins continues to steal the show every night, and his matches have become must-see TV. Rollins may be the next all-time great in the making, and it won’t be long before he finds himself back in the main event picture.

Every great wrestler needs a great rival…..

Finn Balor is Razor Ramon:

Tell me a bad match Balor and Rollins have had this year…I’m still waiting. The same applied to HBK and Razor. What makes the Balor/Razor comparison work in my eyes is their place on the roster. As good and as popular as Razor was, he was always a step behind his contemporaries. Same goes for Balor. He is great but I just don’t see him being at the level of a Rollins, Styles, Owens, Reigns, etc. Only time will tell if Finn can separate himself from the pack, and become what we all hope he can be.

Enough with the little guys, we need a monster…

Braun Strowman is the Undertaker:

Every generation needs the giant scary guy, and that is exactly what Braun Strowman is. The fans are fascinated by him, and want nothing more than to see him dominate the competition. This is where you can draw the parallel between Braun and the Undertaker. They both struck fear in their opponents with nothing more than their aura. Take away Taker’s first world title run that lasted only 6 days, and it took him until 1997 to taste legit championship glory. Braun is destined to climb to the top of that mountain. He has got all the tools, including a catchphrase that makes no sense! That’s all you need!

We also need an underdog:

Sami Zayn is Owen Hart:

Sami Zayn is an Uber talented wrestler, who the fans adore, and he will always be in the shadow of his best friend/greatest rival. Sound familiar? Zayn can have great match after great match, but he will always be connected to Kevin Owens, just like Owen was to Bret. The jury is still out on Zayn. As gifted as he is, like Owen, he has not been able to crack the main event consistently since his impressive run in NXT. He is on a hot streak right now, here’s to hoping he can stay on it.


AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are Bret Hart:

I know this may seem like a cop out, and it is. I couldn’t decide on which one of these guys fit the Hitman’s mold better. But the more I thought about it the more it became clear that they each embody the best of Bret Hart. AJ Styles has had to be the steadfast veteran in a period that desperately needs it. He is a true champion that puts on a great match every time he steps through the ropes. Like Hart, he can those performances out of any wrestler, any size. He is a cornerstone of the WWE in 2018. Kevin Owens shows us what Bret Hart would be if he were active right now. Babyface promos in 1993, are heel promos in 2018. Owens has a bigger personality, but his constant whining about the world being against him echoes the same sentiments Hart spoke of back in the day. Being Canadian helps too. In WWE world void of heels he is the best kind. He’s annoying. He’s whiny. He can wrestle.

All of the guys on this list may not be on the mainstream level of a Hulk Hogan or a Steve Austin, but they are the building blocks to get the WWE into their next phase. I trust these guys will get the company back where it needs to be, the next great generation.

Honorable mentions: John Cena/1993 Hogan, Elias/Jeff Jarrett, Bray Wyatt/Papa Shango,

Maverick Deals: When It’s “Time” To Change

We are only a few days removed from the end of the 2018 installment of the Backlash PPV. At least I’m assuming it ended a few days ago, as I took my old ass to bed following the WWE Championship match. It was at that point I realized that I am quickly becoming a cranky old man when it comes to my wrestling. Before too long I will be sitting on the front porch, yelling at the neighborhood children to get off my lawn, all the while waxing poetic about the “good ‘ol days” when men were men and Stone Cold Stunners were a dime a dozen. At 36, I know I am far too young to feel this way. However with the way the current product is presented, as well as the way some fans behave, I have found it is just easier to embrace it.

Up until the middle of last week, I was going to attend Backlash in Newark. My friend had purchased the tickets when the originally went on sale, and after WrestleMania 34 made him immediately regret that decision, he asked me if it was alright to put the tickets up for sale. I had no issue with this whatsoever on many levels. It is always a throwaway PPV that recycles Mania matches, and with the added “Greatest Royal Rumble” show, this year was worse than others. Not to mention from where I live, Newark is a bitch to get to. I would be much happier sitting at home, drinking not $10 beer, and being able to turn it off whenever I felt the need to. Thank you WWE for proving that I made the right decision.

Now I refuse to sit here and break down this show match for match. It would be a waste of time. My main takeaways from Backlash have a lot to do with the WWE as a whole. They seem to be ignoring the glaring issues that hamper their ability to put on a cohesive and entertaining show. The action in the ring isn’t the problem. Having never set foot in a ring I wouldn’t dare question the men who put their health on the line for our entertainment. What I will question is how these shows are constructed. I am a paying customer dammit and I’m angry and now you are going to hear about it!

A big complaint I see amongst fans is that these PPVs are too long. WrestleMania this year, if you include the pre show, topped out around 7 hours. Backlash, a non-major show, was 4 1/2 hours with pre show. Now I love wrestling, but when you factor in 6 hours of programming a week(if you include NXT), it can be a little overkill. The great part about PPVs back in the day were that they all came in under 3 hours. The fact of the matter is the WWE wastes so much time on non-essential junk in between their matches. During Backlash, 5 of the 8 matches on the main card had a video package that averaged around 3 minutes. Why do they treat the fans like idiots who don’t watch their weekly programming? Not every match on the undercard needs a hype video! Furthermore, they showed 5 commercials, mostly for the WWE Network. Who are these ads for? We are already watching you! Throw in the 20 minute segment with Elias and everybody else who didn’t have a match that night and you’ve wasted almost an hour on superfluous nonsense. This is inexcusable considering the bell for the main event didn’t ring until AFTER 11 o’clock eastern time. With no cable operators to answer to anymore these shows can go as late as they want without consequences. In a world where everybody gets neck strain staring at their smartphone, how can you expect your fans to focus their attention on the ring, when there is nothing going on in it?

So what about when there is action in the ring? One of my dear wrestling Twitter friends, Myron(from the Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast Network), made the point that the matches are too long as well. Combined with the delays between matches, watching events like this feels like a chore. I decided to put these theories to the test and compare Backlash to show from the Attitude Era. I chose the biggest event from 20 years ago, WrestleMania 14. Keep in mind this is not a great Mania, but boy was it efficient. If we take out the pre-show and it’s match from Backlash, both shows had 8 matches. Yet, Backlash clocks in at 3 1/2 hours, WM 14 was a speeding 2:45. It still had video packages and interviews before most of its matches, but they averaged about a minute less than the ones this past Sunday. My buddy Myron was right, the matches are longer! Bouts at WM 14 averaged just over 11 minutes, Backlash was over 13! 3 of those matches on Sunday went over 18 minutes, only the main event did that at WrestleMania. These numbers baffle me. You have a product that caters to people of all ages, including children. You have to speed up the show if you want to hold their attention. I fell asleep during WrestleMania this year. I fell asleep during Backlash. It must be the WWE’s fault, because I doubt I have wrestling narcolepsy.

During the Monday Night Wars, as WCW Nitro or RAW would draw to a close, it would always leave me wanting more. I hate to say it, but I now find myself waiting for some of these WWE shows to end! As fan, I want to be taken on an adventure. I want to count the hours until RAW and SmackDown start. I want to be excited for what is next to come. I love you product, but I have a life too. I shouldn’t take me 2 days to get through your biggest show of the year. The big discussion in baseball now is pace of play, and fans losing interest. WWE is straddling this fence. If they keep this up, I’ll be more than happy reliving the glory days 2 hours at a time.